Turnpike Trustees Reluctant to Conciliate Rebecca

The capture of some Rebeccaites (including “Rebecca herself” if you believe some of the headlines) doesn’t seem to have slowed the Rebecca movement down very much. This article from the Cambrian shows them to be as bold as ever:

Becca at Fishguard.

On , or early , Rebecca, with about fifty of her children (agreeable to notice given to the collector, also to Mr. M‘Kennel, the surveyor), paid a visit to this town: they arrived at the gate leading from Haverfordwest at about . After going through some preliminaries, Becca requested her children, after firing a volley, to take down the obstacle in her way, which was done in a very short time, in the presence of a great number of the inhabitants; they then marched in military order through the town to Park-a-Morfa gate, on the road to Newport, a distance of about half a mile, which was soon demolished. They returned in a short time in the same order, very peacefully. — The above-named lady, with about eighty of her children, paid another visit to the town on , to complete the work they commenced on . They arrived at about , passed through the town, in military order, Becca leading the way on horseback, to Park-a-Morfa, on the Cardigan road. After giving notice to the inmates of the toll-house to leave, they commenced pulling it down, which was effected in about half an hour; they then returned through the town to the toll-house on the Haverfordwest road, which was also destroyed; they then proceeded to the residence of Mr. M‘Kennel, the surveyor of the roads, and totally destroyed his garden wall, which he lately took in from the Common, and doing great injury to his property. They left at the approach of dawn, informing the inhabitants it was their intention to pay another visit, to get rid of some encroachments that had lately taken place on the Common. They were generally armed, and kept up a regular fire — the whole were disguised.

On , the Swansea Turnpike and Wych Tree Bridge Trusts met to discuss business… including what to do about all of those Rebeccaites running about the country ripping down their toll gates. Here are some excerpts from the coverage of the meeting in the Cambrian.

One of the items on the agenda was to remove some of the gates in the hopes that this would cause the troubles to simmer down.

Mr. Bullen, the lessee of the tolls, said that parties had lately refused paying toll at the Penyfilia bar. This led to a general conversation, in which several Trustees took part.

Mr. [J.H.] Vivian then referred to the recommendation of the Committee [“with respect to the gates in the neighbourhood of Swansea”] to discontinue the Rhydypandy gate, and the bar at Penyfilia, which was merely a chain for the purpose of catching persons with coal. The Committee had, in fact, recommended the discontinuation of all gates, the tolls of which were scarcely worth collecting, and also where the state of repairs in which the road was kept would not justify them in maintaining a gate…

The Rev. W. Collins said he would oppose the adoption of the report, as far as regarded the Pomfald gate. He knew that the Committee recommended their being discontinued because no great profit was received from them; but the farmers would always retain in their minds the notion that the Trustees were actuated by fear; and who knew but that in two years time they would pull down the Cartersford gate. He would therefore move that no gate in the Gower district should be removed within six months.

Mr. [M.] Moggridge said that with respect to the amendment, he had generally been of the opinion, that the Trustees ought not to take down any gates, because they were not required to do so; and as it might be thought to be the result of fear, he (Mr. M.) had opposed taking down any gates while the Rebecca riots continued; but as it was well known that Rebecca had a serious check on , he thought that was the time to make concessions. Had it turned out on that the gate was destroyed and the police beaten, he (Mr. M.) would be the last man to entertain the subject, but after the lesson taught Rebecca, he should presume there were no persons so entirely regardless of their own personal security as not to agree to the concessions proposed to be made. He could assure the meeting, that Rebecca was considerably the worse off on . (Much cheering.)

Mr. [J.D.] Berrington took the same view of the subject as Mr. Moggridge.

Mr. Benson opposed the amendment. There was no evidence that the Pomfald gate had been destroyed by persons resident in the neighbourhood. He thought it was done by parties from Carmarthenshire.

Mr. Smith said, that any expenses incurred in consequence of riotous proceedings could be recovered from the hundred [district] in which such riot took place. Rather than fill the country with military, the best method would be to make parties feel in their pockets the effect of such breaches of the peace.

The “(Much cheering)” seems to indicate that the turnpike trustees really thought that the authorities had caught Rebecca rather than having perhaps caught a Rebecca. The Rebeccaite attacks did not seem to be much discouraged by the arrest.